miércoles, 14 de mayo de 2014

What has become of the Occupy Movement? Interview with three of the movement's protagonists in Lancaster

They are young, dynamic, lovable; they are searching for truth, justice, an end to a war based economy, an end to the dominance of an exclusive elite over the vast majority of the population; they are licking their wounds in the wake of the de facto disappearance of the Occupy Movement that sent them to the streets to live in tents, protest and discuss social, economic and cultural alternatives for Lancaster and the United States.

How did the Occupy Movement get underway?
I understand that it began during a meeting in Brooklyn of an open-ended group influenced by Spanish anarchists, during which a professor described the amazing activities of such groups in Spain; then diverse protest groups began to appear in New York concerned with the economic crisis. 
Without the leadership of any established political group… 

They didn’t want any agenda of that sort, they didn’t want identification with any political groups. I think that was what attracted people originally to the movement.
Nevertheless, the movement gained important recognition in society. When was the high point of the Occupy Movement?

Angela: I think it started in October, 2011 in New York City and then filtered down to Lancaster. We had one meeting after another. 
What were the objectives of the Movement here in Lancaster?

Angela: People are always asking that question, what have you agreed upon as your standpoint.  But actually each participant had his or her own perspective on what it was about. What we all had in common was that everyone was severely discontented with the System. 
There is so much to change. The problem is where to begin, what aspects should you begin with. One clear aspect is financial disparity. Money. There are some who are so exceptionally much richer than we are. But money is not the whole picture either. In Lancaster there was a very strong interest in the environment; people in their early 20’s and 30’s are asking themselves what’s happening to our world. 
Has the Occupy Movement brought about a significant change in awareness concerning these issues?

Curtis: When it ended here in Lancaster I was a bit disarmed but since then there have been a great number of articles published on the problems raised by the Movement, for example on economic equality, the distribution of wealth. I don’t think that would have happened at all if it had not been for the Occupy Movement. The idea that there are a very few people who have all the wealth, ideas that even penetrated into the analysis of the New York Times or the Washington Post. At least once a month there are new statistics or a chart describing where wealth is and they talk about that. I have just read numbers which assert that the growth of the top one percent isn’t that great so where is the disparity coming from? 

       It comes from the top 0.1%--that’s where you see the staggering inflation. It isn’t even the top one percent that is increasing so astronomically, it is a tiny fraction of that group. This was not an issue in the mass media until the Occupy Movement appeared. There is a lot of frustration and anger in the population which isn’t being discussed.

Would you say then that the problem is both political and economic?
Jono: I don’t know if I can answer that question but I think that people have begun to realize that the government is not really in control, that it is the corporations and that situation is not just here but on a global scale. It is the corporations which control the entire world economy. I hear more and more people, even those like my parents who are conservative, who talk about this. 
How did your parents react to your participation in the Occupy Movement?
They were a little upset, saying that it wasn’t patriotic to speak out against your
government, or that you can't beat city hall, but proud of my choices.

Was that the main objection?
Yes because I had a pretty different life style than what they would have wanted. Their idea of a traditional American life style was to have a job and raise a family, retire by the time you reach 60, do your duty for your country, that kind of thing, pay your taxes. But I wasn’t doing that. I was travelling in my 20’s, then I came back, got odd jobs just to get by, wanting to be a farmer, then got involved in organizing —that was very much against their ideas. And I don’t think they liked to see my name in the newspaper doing things like that.


Why is it so difficult for U.S. citizens to oppose their government?


 Because there’s no ethics in government. The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is real. People disappear. Can the government be changed? Well, I think anything is possible. They are people—unless they are lizards! Ha! Ha! You never know. But people with empathy and heart exist. I don’t know. I feel like I’m a greedy person living here in America, having all these things; you know, you can’t see or feel the pain of something so far beneath you. We don’t see ants as beings just like us that deserve respect. We are all part of the universe, this whole picture…

Change, that word so many people talk about: is it possible?

Change is inevitable, whether it is brought about by revolution or not. If things continue going that way they are going things are going to collapse. Those in power see collapse too, so try anything possible before you fall off the edge. If things don’t change, they will change anyway by forces beyond their control. 

Angela:  The fact that wealth is concentrated in so few hands doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be change. That is, unless people make a clear choice to bring that power down. I can see the continued milking of this planet for all of its worth until a very disturbing society appears in which all the water is contaminated, you know, that could happen. It’s not that things are necessarily going to shift. 

Curtis: In Beijing they wear gas masks because there is so much pollution. Nevertheless, what makes me optimistic about change has to do with what is taking place in Canada with the gas pipelines blocked by indigenous protesters upset because they were given rights to those lands and now they are saying you are not going to drill on our lands. The indigenous groups around Alberta are really heading the protests against oil operations there with some of the dirtiest forms of fossil fuels. The pipeline has been repeatedly delayed over the past three years and I think it is in large part due to the protests of the indigenous population. No you can’t go through our town, no you can’t go through our country…Something like that has happened in Nebraska and there they are pretty conservative but when you try to take people’s water or contaminate it the problem becomes real. Take this Clive Bundy character in Nevada, a radical, racist libertarian but he hates the government because he thinks they are infringing on his rights. He’s not like us, true, but there is some disconnect there. There’s a point here. Who does the land belong to? Who says they can exploit it?

Do you think the dominating groups in the country are capable of bringing about change and what kind of change would that be?

Jono: I think they are perfectly capable of bringing about change because they have the technology to do so. However, a great part of the greed of giant corporations comes from fossil fuels. We need new infra-structures anyway. We can switch over to smaller localized grids, with renewable energy. This is being done in many countries. Will they do it? They haven’t because they are still investing in the fossil fuels. I don’t think they will change unless we make it financially impossible to continue exploiting fossil fuels. People are feeling very much at the end of the line and realize the need to take a stand. The more money it costs the corporations to continue as of now, the less likely it will be for them to continue to resist change. The point of direct action is to make it more expensive for them. There are acts of civil disobedience in the U.S. and indigenous groups abroad who are making the operations of the corporations more difficult. The mining industries are always exploiting poor countries, or the fracking going on here in Pennsylvania or in West Virginia. They take their lands, squander the people’s resources, and poison their communities. 

What perspectives do you see not only for the Occupy Movement but for the U.S. in general?

Angela: I guess it’s a life or death situation and so people feel very strong emotions about it. We are loving, caring human beings who value the planet and we don’t want to exploit or harm anyone else. The vision for the future is that we become better people, that we raise our level of consciousness, understand that we are one human family and that we deal with the world’s people as one family.

Jono: I think we need more direct action. People need to organize and reach out as much as possible, organizing as communities, getting away from big government, becoming more self-reliant, not relying on gigantic food systems, take a more localized approach, introducing sustainability as a way of life. 

Are there issues at the present moment capable of mobilizing people?

Angela: I see the way forward as so different from what has happened up to this point that it appears as a distinct mind frame. We are trying but it is as if now we were attempting to bridge both worlds. You play the game of politics and economics when actually you want to bring about something completely different. 

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